Test is part of a new arms race for super fast weaponry
China’s military last week conducted the first flight test of a new ultra-high speed missile vehicle aimed at delivering warheads through U.S. missile defenses, Pentagon officials said.
The test of the new hypersonic glide vehicle was carried out Jan. 9 and the experimental weapon is being dubbed the WU-14 by the Pentagon, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The hypersonic vehicle represents a major step forward in China’s secretive strategic nuclear and conventional military and missile programs.
The new hypersonic vehicle was detected traveling at extremely high speeds during the flight test over China, said officials who discussed some details of the test.
The hypersonic craft appears designed to be launched atop one of China’s intercontinental ballistic missiles, and then glides and maneuvers at speeds of up to 10 times the speed of sound from near space en route to its target, the officials said.
The military advantages of hypersonic craft include precise targeting, very rapid delivery of weapons, and greater survivability against missile and space defenses.
Hypersonic speed is between 3,840 miles per hour and 7,680 miles per hour, also known as Mach 5 to Mach 10.
China military affairs specialists said the hypersonic vehicle test is a significant milestone and appears to be part of China’s development of asymmetric warfare weaponry that Beijing calls “assassin’s mace” weapons—high-technology arms that would assist China’s overall weaker military forces to defeat the more technologically advanced U.S. military.
China is also developing a hypersonic, scramjet-powered vehicle that can take off independently or be launched from a bomber.
Stokes, an analyst with the Project 2049 Institute, said Chinese military reports indicate that its hypersonic glide vehicles will travel from the edge of space at speeds ranging between Mach 8 and Mach 12, or between 6,084 miles per hour and 9,127 miles per hour.
Such speeds would challenge the current system of U.S. missile defenses. Those defenses include a combination of long-range interceptors, medium-range sea and land-based interceptors, and interceptors designed to hit incoming missiles closer to targets.
The Pentagon’s most recent annual report on the Chinese military said that in May 2012 China opened a new JF12 shockwave hypersonic wind tunnel—the largest of its kind in the world—that replicates flying conditions between Mach 5 and Mach 9.
A Chinese technical paper from December 2012 revealed that China plans to use on-board precision guidance systems that would be corrected in-flight using both satellite and celestial navigation.
A second paper from April concluded that hypersonic weapons pose “a new aerospace threat.” It reveals that China has studied the U.S. Air Force’s experimental X-37B Space Plane in order to “effectively track and intercept” hypersonic vehicles.
“Hypersonic aircraft in aerospace usually have the following unique characteristics: high, fast, and small,” the paper states. “Their motion is highly variable. As a result, this type of target is very difficult to track.”
Full article: China Conducts First Test of New Ultra-High Speed Missile Vehicle (Washington Free Beacon)